Thursday, April 10, 2008

Face-Lift 512

Guess the Plot

Santa Fe: Holy Faith

1. Unemployed lawyer Amy Trimble is taking on the entire state of New Mexico. Armed with a Spanish-English pocket dictionary, she's suing every municipality that refuses to change its name to something secular. She wasn't counting on falling in love with Hollis Roller, Santa Fe's most eligible bachelor and part-time preacher. Will the First Amendment fall to the Bible, or will Hollis be the one to convert?

2. In the year 2093, nuclear war has destroyed half the landmass of the Earth. In the far southwest, civilization begins to return in the form on Monks on horseback delivering mail, a new pony express for the 22nd century based in the literary consciousness of librarian monks.

3. A monk traveling with Coronado hopes to convert the heathen Indians to Catholicism. Newly introduced to Spanish and the Catholic faith, the Indians mistake the term "Santa Fe" to mean Holy Sh*t and, incensed, kill the monk for committing apostasy.

4. Shaman Joe Elkbootie starts preaching that early Christian missionaries were too gentle in their California assimilation efforts. Soon he's dodging angry mobs, tomahawks, and a few poison darts from outraged indigenous tribes elsewhere. Can he win enough converts to protect him from his tribal elders’ pressing invitation to a roast?

5. In New Mexico, when a young man addicted to gambling, debauchery and bloodsports finds himself having sex with a fourteen-year-old Mexican girl, he decides it's time to turn over a new leaf, maybe even get religion . . . starting tomorrow.

6. On the eve of America's conquest of New Mexico, a 19th-century trader and his partner team up with a Franciscan monk and open a chain of general stores/churches along the Santa Fe trail. Can they turn the badlands into a Holyland . . . and make a profit?

Original Version

Dear Ms. Agent:

What’s playing on your iPOD? ["That's When You Lost Me," by Craig Carothers.]

SANTA FE: HOLY FAITH is the second book of a series about the American conquest of New Mexico in 1846. [Is this still going on? How long can it possibly take to conquer New Mexico?] It is the story of three men who try to build a future while the Mexican government slides into ruin. The novel is character-based historical fiction, 90,000 words in length.

Kincaid, a young American entrepreneur in the Santa Fe trade, descends into depravity after Maria, the daughter of one of his partners, betrays him. Kincaid engages in drunkenness, debauchery, gambling, and blood sports until an historical figure, Manuel Armijo, [Historical to Kincaid or to you? To me he's just an anagram for jaguar lo mein, a staple of the diet of the Chinese working on the Transcontinental Railroad.] a corrupt, wealthy landowner, proposes a monopoly using Kincaid’s connections in trading and Armijo’s control of the Rio Grande Valley from Santa Fe to El Paso. Joe, a black American freed from slavery by Kincaid, accompanies Kincaid to Armijo’s hacienda in hopes of keeping Kincaid from debasing himself more. Armijo’s wife, who in actual fact, procured young girls for her husband, provides Kincaid with a fourteen year-old peon girl by promising her family freedom from the hacienda. Kincaid struggles with the moral dilemma, but eventually deflowers the girl. [It's not clear what the wife's motivation is. What does she care if Kincaid deflowers the girl?] Shamed by Joe and his own conscience, Kincaid helps the girl and her family escape to Navajos, [Escape? They were promised their freedom.] where many slaves of New Mexicans sought refuge. This act of redemption costs Kincaid dearly by making the Armijos bitter enemies.

Kincaid reestablishes his trading business on the Santa Fe Trail with his partners, Joe and Manuel (the father of Maria). [Kincaid's partner and his enemy have the same first name? Can't you call one of them Kam Fong?] As they continue their business they are affected by the abolition of Mexico’s enlightened constitution which prohibited slavery and limited the power of wealthy owners of haciendas. They struggle with taxes imposed on traders and regulations which require foreign businesses to take Mexican partners. The government’s actions affect disadvantaged citizens as well. [They struggle with taxes and government regulations? Are you trying to put us to sleep?] Eventually the pueblo Indians and peasants in northern New Mexico revolt. Kincaid and his partners are sympathetic to the rebels and aid them with supplies. The rebels capture Santa Fe and kill the Mexican governor. Threatened by the revolt, Armijo organizes a militia to retake the capital. On the eve of the battle, Armijo panics and hides from the fighting, but his troops defeat the revolutionaries. He proclaims his success to Mexico City, and the Mexican government appoints him governor. He uses his newfound power to punish Kincaid, crushing his business and causing him to flee to St. Louis. Kincaid vows to return.


Too much detail. Remove everything except the sex, violence, depravity and blood sports.

Is it a good idea to have your main character hitting the sheets with a fourteen-year-old? At least tell me she's fourteen, going on fifteen.

As I understand the slave owner/slave relationship, the slave is supposed to do what the slave owner orders, even if the slave owner doesn't promise to grant the slave's family their freedom. Promising freedom and then reneging isn't worth the bitterness it will inspire.

It sounds to me like this book is Kincaid versus Armijo.

1. They agree to work as partners.
2. Kincaid helps some of Armijo's slaves to escape, ending the partnership.
3. Kincaid resumes his trading enterprises.
4. Rebels take Santa Fe.
5. Armijo takes it back, becomes governor, ruins Kincaid.

Skip the 14-yr.-old, the taxes and other red tape. It was too long anyway.

If the first book does well enough to warrant a sequel, you'll be selling this to the same publisher, so you won't need to tell us who Joe is, or who Kincaid is, or what happened so far.


Whirlochre said...

This is way too long, even for a standalone synopsis.

As a result, I got very bogged down in the detail and had to wait for EE's notes to be bailed out.

They struggle with taxes imposed on traders and regulations which require foreign businesses to take Mexican partners.

I am sure this is significant, but it's hardly the pulse-pounding grist - and there are more sentences like this.

As EE said - cut to the real hard core.

And watch for the overabundance of 'Kincaid' - I count 11 here.

Anonymous said...

Well done, evil. You trivialized and mocked the plot so well in GTP#5 that it was unrecognizable. Nice work.

Dave Fragments said...

I actually guessed GTP #5. It surprised me, too. Something about gambling, debauchery and bloodsports clued me into the right plot.

I agree with EE's five point plotline. It sounds like the Tragedy of Kincaid in New Mexico before it became a state. Much like the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

Armijo seems to be the foil for Kincaid's faults. Kincaid is thrown into emotional misery and never seems to recover. He starts out betrayed and ends up ruined, never able to rise above the profane to the sacred. ARmijo meets Kincaid when he's gambling, debauching and blood-sporting, and says "Gee, what a great guy." Makes friends with the reprobate, is betrayed by Kincaid falling in love with a rebound girlfriend - Armijo's Wife's Prostitute. And after that, historical events (the revolution and ascension of Armijo as governor) overtake Kincaid until the end of the story.

It's not a happy ending, is it?

One last thing: Quinn calls it Little Sahara.

Anonymous said...

"What’s playing on your iPOD? ["That's When You Lost Me," by Craig Carothers.]"

One of the funniest EE lines EVER!

Shorten and tighten, Author. Nice writing, but w-a-a-a-y to long.

Dave Fragments said...

And what's on my IPOD?
"quel sampre versato al cielo s'innalza" from Roberto Devereax by G. Donizetti sung by Beverly Sills.
Elizabeth Regina's response to Nottingham's "I wanted blood and got it"... concerning the death of Essex.

Anonymous said...

Wait! What did the iPod line have to do with anything? And what if Ms Agent doesn't HAVE an iPod? She's going to stop at the first line of your query and say, 'nothing is playing on my iPod, because I don't have one.' Maybe you should include iPods in the submission packages, to ensure this never happens.

corrupt, wealthy landowner

There are at least two redundant words there....

Robin S. said...

"Manuel Armijo, [Historical to Kincaid or to you? To me he's just an anagram for jaguar lo mein, a staple of the diet of the Chinese working on the Transcontinental Railroad."

You are a scream, Anagram Man.

Now, back to watching the Masters.

Unknown said...

Maybe you could try varying your sentence structure? It's a lot of loong sentences that drag on. Cut to the chase. And "deflowering" is very dainty, I'm sure, but it's sort of distracting. And what does the iPod thing have to do with your query?

none said...

You're not giving us many reasons to care about Kincaid. How does the fourteen-year-old feel about her "deflowering"?

talpianna said...

Author, it seems to me that your heart is really in writing somewhat polemic history as opposed to historical fiction.

Why don't you?

Polenth said...

If this is the second book of the series, what happened to the first one? Was it published by someone else?

Evil Editor said...

The 1st book is queried here:

The openings of both book have been here as well. Possibly searching the blog for Kincaid would find them.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Interestingly, Wes, we've seen a lot of snippets from your work, and the writing and story lines don't seem to be as dry as your queries make them sound. What we've seen so far has been real story, not historical text. So why do your queries insist on diluting the story and focusing on the history and the lessons we learned, should be learning, never learned? Rousing good story first, history tome second.

Here's my revise:

When the woman he loves betrays him, Kincaid, a young American entrepreneur in the Santa Fe trade, copes in the only way he knows -- drunkeness, debauchery, and blood sports. A chance meeting at a [cage fight] gives him the bootstrap he needs to pull himself out of his depravity. Manuel Armijo, a corrupt, wealthy landowner, proposes a monopoly using Kincaid's trade connections and Armijo's control of the Rio Grande Valley from Santa Fe to El Paso.

But Kincaid's conscience doesn't let him follow through. Instead, with the help of a black American he freed from slavery, Kincaid betrays his benefactor by helping one of Armijo's slave families escape to Navajos. In that simple act, he finds both a measure of redemption and the perseverance to reestablish his trading business on the Santa Fe Trail. But it is that same betrayal that turns the powerful Armijo firmly against him.

When restrictive trade regulations are handed down by the Mexican government, the Pueblo Indians and peasants in New Mexico revolt. Kincaid quickly sides with the revolutionaries who capture Santa Fe and kill the Mexican governor. Victory, however, is short-lived. Armijo organizes a militia to defeat the rebels and retake the capital, putting Kincaid squarely in his sights. And as newly appointed governor, Armijo now has the entire Mexican government at his beck.

Complete at 90,000 words, SANTA FE: HOLY FAITH draws on rich historical detail and historical figures such as Manuel Armijo to tell the story of one man trying to build a future while the Mexican government slides into ruin.

I look forward to sending you the manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Is the IPOD thing in there because you plan to query Kristin Nelson? Because that's all I can figure... she tells people what she's listening to on her IPOD in every blog.

However, I'd bet my life savings that she won't respond to your query to tell you what she's listening to... and I'd bet my youngest child that you're not the first person to ask her that in a query, either..

Dave Fragments said...

If I were sending a query to Kristin Nelson then I would personalize it by saying I enjoyed her blog and my IPOD was playing "whatever." I would make sure that "whatever" was applicable or illustrative of my novel.

There is nothing wrong with telling an agent that you've read their blog and enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with being personable. We all know how to smooze up to and butter up an acquaintance.

E.D. Walker said...

If you're going to query the books separately and you feel like they're stand alone (which you need to feel if you're going to query them seperately) then you probably don't want to mention this is the second book, that might suggest to an agent that you couldn't sell the first book. You can mention that it's part of a series...just don't say where in the series it fits...

Also, general consensus with most agents is don't bother writing the second book in a series until you've sold the first one. Move on. Start a new project. Let Kincaid alone for awhile once he's safely out on submission.

Whirlochre said...

Phoenix has hit the nail on the head.

I knew this was you when I read it, Wes, and, having seen various Santa Fe snippets, knew the style in which your story is couched. The accompanying query was never going to be flippant or jokesy, but, yes, it does read like an accompanying historical essay in places. That's the main problem with it.

If you can re-edit a la snippet prose Wes - and be briefer - I think this will work.

And ditch the ipod opener - unless you're inviting a chummy email correspondence about which Beatle smoked Yoko Ono first, it's totally inappropriate.

Wes said...

Good points, EE, Phoenix, and others. Yes, it is dry and dull, and focuses too much on historical events. Phoenix, can I use your query? I left out subplots such as scalp hunters and conversos, Jews who moved to New Mexico to escape the Inquisition. Wait until Manuel learns he's Jewish!

Don't worry, the iPOD bit was a spoof of another blog. I certainly wouldn't use it. EE, cleverly nailed what would happen if I did.

Let's see if I can do better with the query on the third book (please, I can hear the groans all the way out here in Colorado). Hopefully I can resist writing about two wars, a Bataan-like death march, and a mass execution.


Evil Editor said...

Wait until Manuel learns he's Jewish!

Which Manuel?

Wes said...

Hmmm...........I didn't think about what a mind-warp it would be if Armijo learned he was Jewish.

Anonymous said...

No wonder I'm so confused by this. I understood that there are two Joes, but now it turns out there are two Manuel's? I've been trying to figure out how Maria's daughter is -- well, whatever.

Any reason why everybody has the same name? I hope it's a good one.

Author, you had a good attitude about the iPod ribbing. It was funny and most of us got it.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Wes: You can use my revise as a base, of course. But you know better what your book is about. Maybe the debauchery stuff at the beginning is really just a small part and taking it out and adding in a few of the other incidents like scalp hunters would make the book sound more exciting. And I wouldn't treat those incidents as subplots in the query, but as things Kincaid runs up against. No more than a sentence or two, like:

Re-establishing his trading business isn't easy, however. New competitors have arrived -- Jews escaping the Inquisition are horning in on Kincaid's territory. And scalp hunters have apparently decided the Santa Fe Trail is prime hunting ground.

The thing that struck me about this second book is that it doesn't seem to be self-contained, with a solid ending. You seem to have set up more of a cliff-hanger ending without the cliff part. Joe hightails it to St Louis and vows revenge -- not a real satisfactory end to a book. Yes, you want to leave the reader hungry for more, but you need to wrap something up for them by the time THIS book ends.

You'll note three things I did with your query:

1) Left out the kind of lame ending, but set it up in the reader's imagination that there will be a big battle between Kincaid and Armijo. You have to be the judge if that's something that happens in this book or the next. If the next, then what's the climax in THIS book?

2) Put the focus of this book on Kincaid, and didn't mention Manuel at all.

3) Mentioned Joe only in a way that helped establish Kincaid's motivation for helping the slave family to freedom and not make it seem like an act of compassion not in character with a drunk who loves blood sports.

Does Manuel learn he's Jewish in the next book? If so, maybe the query for the first book concentrates on Kincaid and Joe, with a little more focus on Joe. The query for book 2 focuses on Kincaid, and the one for book 3 focuses on Manuel and Kincaid.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Use what resonates; toss the rest :o)

Jamie Hall said...

If you added a couple of paragraphs and organized it so it flows better, this would be a decent synopsis. As it is now, it is far too long for a query and it also lacks the distinctive structure of a query.

I would put this aside, read agent Kristin Nelson's blog pitch workshop, and start a new query from scratch, aiming for something 2 or 3 paragraphs long.